Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Picture Books From Australia (Thank You, Christopher Cheng)

Returning to my cluttered office from my Autodidactics retreat in Jemez, I found this box waiting for me, all covered with glorious southern hemisphere floral stamps:

The cats aren't interested: this isn't the time of day when they want to pay attention to "this writing business. Pencils and whatnot."
But look! What a treasure trove Chris has sent, of picture books from Australia.  Here are the titles, more or less in the order in which I pulled them out of the box:

Libby Gleeson. The Great Bear. Illus. Armin Greder. Walker, 1999 Notable for the collaboration of author and illustrator so unusual in our field, and for the act of trust that led to the dramatic wordless second half of the book.

Christopher Cheng. One Child.  Illus. Steven Woolman. Era Publications, 1997. An unnamed protagonist takes small steps to save the planet. Repetition and rhythm drive the simple text, which pulls back for the illustrations in the latter half of the book. The colors change and become more luminous as the pages turn.

Colin Thompson. Fearless. Illus. Sarah Davis. ABC Books, 2009. Amusing story of a dog with a "tiny, nervous brain" and a big heart. Humorous narrative voice.

Gregory Rogers. The Hero of Little Street. Allen & Unwin, 2009. Wordless, in exquisitely detailed frames. A journey into the world of a famous Vermeer painting. Book 3 in the Boy Bear series.

Phil Cumming. All Together Now. Illus. Cassandra Allen. Scholastic, 2010. A family story, harried Dad rounds up his family for a camping trip. Lovely circular structure. Australian landscape and nicely recurring rhythms make this stand out from the shelves of family picnic stories.

Sally Murphy. Snowy's Christmas. Illus. David Murphy. Random House Australia, 2009. White roos and a traveling Santa turn the reindeer legend appropriately upside down.

Norma Spaulding. Molly's Memory Jar. Illus. Jacqui Grantford. New Frontier Publishing, 2010. Daddy helps Molly create a memory jar for a beloved canine friend who has died. The palette shifts from grays to jeweled colors. The protagonist is a child of color in a story that commendably chooses not to highlight that fact.

Margaret Wild. Kiss, Kiss! Illus. Bridget Strevens-Marzo. Little Hare, 2003. Sweet story with a gentle arc and a nicely predictable ending.

Sue Machin. I Went Walking. Illus. Julie Vivas. Scholastic 2010 (orig. 1989). With the same rhythms as Brown Bear, Brown Bear, but with quite a different through-line, a story in which brief text leads cumulative narrative that shows up only in the pictures.

Annie White. Mum and Me. Hachette Australia, 2010. Rhyming text, charming mother-daughter story rich in Australian flavor, starting right off the top with vegemite!

Deborah Niland. Annie to the Rescue. Penguin 2010 (orig. 2007). Nice twisty turning point in a treed cat story.

Sally Morgan and Ezekiel Kwaymullina. Sam's Bush Journey. Illus. Bronwyn Bancroft. Little Hare, 2010 (orig. 2009). Gloriously vibrant illustrations in a gentle dream sequence story in the context of a relationship between the young child and his grandmother. Notable too for being written and illustrated by indigenous picture book creators.

Thanks again, Chris. Beautiful books, and a terrific window into picture books Down Under.


  1. Oh, how much fun you are having. What great books.

    I'll definitely drop by some Australian publishers at the Frankfurt Book Fair next month so I can look at some of their books.

  2. Oh please do, Sarah. I hope you'll give us a report on the fair.

  3. and don't forget that 2012 the host nation for the Bologna Book Fair is, drum roll ... AUSTRALIA and I shall be there! yeah!

  4. What a treasure trove. I don't know any of these particular books but I am a big fan of several of the authors and illustrators.